What is a Sphenoidotomy?

Sphenoidotomy is a surgical procedure performed to open the sphenoid sinus. There are two sphenoid sinuses is located deep within the skull, behind the nose. In some cases, the sphenoid sinus can become infected or blocked in ways that do not respond to medication, and a sphenoidotomy can increase drainage. Rarely, a sphenoidotomy can also be performed to access and remove a pituitary tumor.

Although the surgery can be performed through an incision in the cheek, sphenoidotomy is usually done using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope that is inserted through the nostril. The surgeon locates the sphenoid sinus and creates or enlarges the opening to the nose and throat. This can be done by using tools to cut away tissue that is blocking the opening or by inserting and inflating a tiny balloon to widen the space. Any swollen and inflamed tissue is removed, as well as growths such as polyps or mucoceles.

In the past, sphenoid surgery was difficult and dangerous due to its location. The sphenoid closely borders both the optic nerve and the carotid artery, which brings blood to the brain. Today, however, improved tools and technique have made sphenoidotomy safe and easy to recover from.

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